Self-Testing Produces Superior Recall of Both Familiar and Unfamiliar Muscle Information

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Advances in Physiology Education






Dozens of studies have found learning strategies based on the “testing effect” promote greater recall than those that rely solely on reading; however, the advantages of testing are often only observed after a delay (e.g., 2–7 days later). In contrast, our research, which has focused on kinesiology students learning kinesiology information that is generally familiar to them, has consistently demonstrated that testing-based strategies produce greater recall both immediately and after a delay. In an attempt to understand the discrepancies in the literature, the purpose of the present study was to determine if the time-related advantages of a testing-based learning strategy vary with one's familiarity with the to-be-learned information. Participants used both read-only and testing-based strategies to repeatedly study three different sets of information: 1) previously studied human muscle information (familiar information), 2) a mix of previously studied and previously unstudied human muscle information (mixed information), and 3) previously unstudied muscle information that is unique to sharks (unfamiliar information). Learning was evaluated via free recall assessments administered immediately after studying and again after a 1-wk delay and a 3-wk delay. Across those three assessments, the read-only strategy resulted in mean scores of 29.26 ± 1.43, 15.17 ± 1.29, and 5.33 ± 0.77 for the familiar, mixed, and unfamiliar information, respectively, whereas the testing-based strategy produced scores of 34.57 ± 1.58, 16.90 ± 1.31, and 8.33 ± 0.95, respectively. The results indicate that the testing-based strategy produced greater recall immediately and up through the 3-wk delay regardless of the participants' level of familiarity with the muscle information.